Libertarian Perspective: Drugs in AmericaWritten by Kenneth Sharp | | email@example.com
Some cops say legalize drugs? Yes, many do and I will explain some of the reasons why.
In America, we have strong moral feelings about drugs that can cloud reason, especially when coupled with a lack of understanding of history. It isn’t that those who clamor for tough laws and prison sentences are without empathy; on the contrary, most believe those affected will receive the help they need. And it isn’t that these good people are intentionally ignoring history; they simply aren’t taught it.
Currently we imprison those caught with drugs we have deemed illegal or for taking prescription drugs not authorized by a physician. Prisons are not, nor will they be, places where those with drug or alcohol issues will receive the kind of help they need. It simply is not logistically possible.
There are few Americans alive today born before the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act went into effect in 1914. There are probably fewer Americans of any age that are aware of it or what it has meant to society. Prior to this act, drugs could be regulated but were not illegal. A patient, including addicts, could discuss freely with their doctors what medications they were taking, wanted to take or expected to take.
The patient and doctor had an entirely different relationship than we know today. Doctors, drug manufacturers and the government all had a different relationship than what we know today. Addiction was treated as a health and education issue. Drug use recreationally or because of addiction was morally disapproved of but not criminal. Only if they broke existing laws were they arrested, but not for possession or use. Users were treated with compassion and empathy and not denied a place in society.
After this act, doctors were arrested for supplying the necessary drugs to treat addicts and ameliorate their issues. Doctors could no longer treat these people as patients, offering relief from the horrid effects of withdrawal. Addiction was not considered a medical problem under the law. Doctors quickly realized what they risked by treating these patients. The addict was forced to find his supply on the black market. This is prohibition. Prohibition leads to crime and immense wealth for the profiteers. The underlying issues do not disappear with prohibition, and the profiteers see their market increase. In order to survive, addicts turn to
crime, including theft
As the crimes associated with drugs increase, along with profits, the image of the minority as prime user and criminal is reinforced. Prohibitions have always targeted minority groups to secure authority of the powerful elite classes. Opium was used to target the Chinese in America, even as the U.S. government and commercial interests worked to open markets to it in China. Propaganda described marijuana and cocaine as the gateway for black men to corrupt white women, especially with the advent of jazz music. There were powerful corporate and government interests invested in outlawing hemp for their own gain.
Americans have not received the benefits they hoped for with drug prohibition. Instead, we have ever escalating and more violent crimes. We are less safe and so are our police and safety forces. The profits have increased yearly despite economic recessions. Usage has increased year after year.
But other countries, like Portugal and Switzerland, have tried different approaches, like decriminalization and legalization. These approaches have succeeded in every category we have hoped for and failed to achieve. They have less use of all drugs, less crime, less spread of disease, less cost to society and fewer lost lives and broken families.
In no way does this course of action promote drug use or signal defeat. In fact, if the aim is to reduce use of all drugs, reduce crime, reduce cost to society, and decrease the spread of disease and save lives and families — this is how we win the war and do it while keeping the moral high ground.
Email Kenneth Sharp at firstname.lastname@example.org.